The whispers are still for Mourinho. Ask almost any Chelsea fan who they’d want in charge next season, and in a heartbeat, the name ‘Jose Mourinho’ would be the answer. And while there’s no decision to the contrary, there’s still hope for the return of the 'Special One'. Truth be told however, it would surely be a surprise if the Portuguese rocked up at the Bridge, having buried the hatchet with Roman Abramovich, to take up the reins at Chelsea again. ‘Never go back’, they say. But despite Jose’s fluttering eyelashes at his former charges, you can’t help wondering if his apparent coquettish personality and ‘come hither’ stance is mere posturing to increase his value elsewhere. So, if not Jose for the Blues, then who?
The smart money appears to be chasing a different manager, also currently plying his trade in Spain. The Chilean Manuel Pellegrini has many of the qualities required at the Bridge, although in his sixtieth year, he may not be the long term appointment that the club surely need. That said, if the club is seeking a manager with the gravitas to come in and take form control of the squad, Pellegrini’s CV recommends him for the job. As a former Real Madrid manager – sacked for finishing second to Barcelona, despite culling 96 points, the highest Real Madrid have ever secured, to be replaced, ironically, by Mourinho - he has the ‘big club’ experience not to be intimidated by huge expectation and run away egos. He could also be the perfect foil if, as is often rumoured, the club are seeking to bring a young ex-player in as manager – perhaps Gianfranco Zola, Steve Clarke or Gus Poyet for example.
The performances of Pellegrini’s Malaga team this season have enhanced a reputation already well established by his tenure at Villareal and of course, as mentioned above, Real Madrid. The Costa del Sol side have made La Rosaleda a difficult ground for any club to visit, and their adventure in the Champions’ League was only ended a tad unluckily, as Dortmund scored two goals in injury time to eliminate the Spaniards. Couple all this with a sound command of English, and you can see that there’s potential in the rumours.
Would Chelsea go for the Chilean? Well, given the above, if Mourinho isn’t in the frame, and the seemingly inevitable Benitez exit occurs, the question may be who else is better qualified. David Moyes could be a contender if he decides to quit Everton, but if not, it’s difficult to see anyone from else the English game figuring in the calculations. Jupp Heynckes has been rumoured, and he is scheduled to leave Bayern in the care of Guardiola after this season, but given he’ll be 68 by the time next season kicks off, it looks a long shot. So, if the Mourinho deal fails to materialise, don’t be surprised if a Chilean manager is added to Chelsea’s cosmopolitan set up.